Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Do holes make moles?

03.11.2010
Surprising first ancestor of bizarre marsupial moles

The mysterious origins of Australia's bizarre and secretive marsupial moles have been cast in a whole new and unexpected light with the first discovery in the fossil record of one of their ancestors.

The find reveals a remarkable journey through time, place and lifestyle: living marsupial moles are blind, earless and live underground in the deserts of the Northern Territory, Western Australia and South Australia, yet their ancestors lived in lush rainforest far away in north Queensland.

In the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B, a team led by Professor Mike Archer, of the University of New South Wales (UNSW), reports the discovery of the remarkable 20 million-year-old fossil at the Riversleigh World Heritage fossil site.

Although related to kangaroos, koalas and other marsupials, living marsupial moles far more closely resemble Cape golden moles, which burrow through the desert sands of Africa. The two golden-furred animals not only look indistinguishable when seen side by side but share many other similarities in their teeth and skeletons that reflect their subterranean lifestyles.

Yet the Cape golden mole is a placental mammal - the group that includes rats, bats, elephants and humans – and these two very different branches of the mammal family evolved from a common ancestor at least 125 million years ago, says Professor Archer. Having diverged in ancestry, however, their similar lifestyles have meant that they have converged in anatomy.

"This fossil discovery came as a real shock," he says. "Until now, we had always assumed that marsupial moles must have evolved in an unknown ancient Australian desert because, like Cape golden moles, the living marsupial moles survive only in deserts.

"Yet this ancestral Australian mole, which is not as specialised as the living form, has been discovered in ancient rainforest deposits—not deserts. The fossils suggest that they became mole-like while burrowing through the mossy floors of those ancient forests."

This missing link has solved a second mystery about how the highly specialised V-shaped teeth of the living marsupial mole evolved. Although they are almost identical to the teeth of their African counterparts, it is now clear that they went down a completely different evolutionary pathway to get there, says co-author Dr Robin Beck of the American Museum of Natural History.

"This ancient link makes it clear that marsupials followed a completely different path from placentals but ended up with almost identical-looking teeth."

Co-author UNSW Associate Professor Suzanne Hand said: "It goes to the heart of global debates about relationship versus convergence - whether animals are similar because they are closely related or similar because they have had to adapt to related challenges. It's also exciting because it so beautifully demonstrates just how adaptive Australian marsupials can be when given the right evolutionary challenges and enough time to meet them."

Riversleigh research is supported by the Xstrata Community Partnership Program North Queensland and the Australian Research Council. The fossil has been named Naraboryctes philcreaseri , with the species name honouring Phil Creaser, a strong supporter of the CREATE Foundation. http://www.create.unsw.edu.au

Bob Beale | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.unsw.edu.au
http://www.create.unsw.edu.au

All articles from Earth Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Fizzy soda water could be key to clean manufacture of flat wonder material: Graphene

Whether you call it effervescent, fizzy, or sparkling, carbonated water is making a comeback as a beverage. Aside from quenching thirst, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have discovered a new use for these "bubbly" concoctions that will have major impact on the manufacturer of the world's thinnest, flattest, and one most useful materials -- graphene.

As graphene's popularity grows as an advanced "wonder" material, the speed and quality at which it can be manufactured will be paramount. With that in mind,...

Im Focus: Exotic quantum states made from light: Physicists create optical “wells” for a super-photon

Physicists at the University of Bonn have managed to create optical hollows and more complex patterns into which the light of a Bose-Einstein condensate flows. The creation of such highly low-loss structures for light is a prerequisite for complex light circuits, such as for quantum information processing for a new generation of computers. The researchers are now presenting their results in the journal Nature Photonics.

Light particles (photons) occur as tiny, indivisible portions. Many thousands of these light portions can be merged to form a single super-photon if they are...

Im Focus: Circular RNA linked to brain function

For the first time, scientists have shown that circular RNA is linked to brain function. When a RNA molecule called Cdr1as was deleted from the genome of mice, the animals had problems filtering out unnecessary information – like patients suffering from neuropsychiatric disorders.

While hundreds of circular RNAs (circRNAs) are abundant in mammalian brains, one big question has remained unanswered: What are they actually good for? In the...

Im Focus: RAVAN CubeSat measures Earth's outgoing energy

An experimental small satellite has successfully collected and delivered data on a key measurement for predicting changes in Earth's climate.

The Radiometer Assessment using Vertically Aligned Nanotubes (RAVAN) CubeSat was launched into low-Earth orbit on Nov. 11, 2016, in order to test new...

Im Focus: Scientists shine new light on the “other high temperature superconductor”

A study led by scientists of the Max Planck Institute for the Structure and Dynamics of Matter (MPSD) at the Center for Free-Electron Laser Science in Hamburg presents evidence of the coexistence of superconductivity and “charge-density-waves” in compounds of the poorly-studied family of bismuthates. This observation opens up new perspectives for a deeper understanding of the phenomenon of high-temperature superconductivity, a topic which is at the core of condensed matter research since more than 30 years. The paper by Nicoletti et al has been published in the PNAS.

Since the beginning of the 20th century, superconductivity had been observed in some metals at temperatures only a few degrees above the absolute zero (minus...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Call for Papers – ICNFT 2018, 5th International Conference on New Forming Technology

16.08.2017 | Event News

Sustainability is the business model of tomorrow

04.08.2017 | Event News

Clash of Realities 2017: Registration now open. International Conference at TH Köln

26.07.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

A Map of the Cell’s Power Station

18.08.2017 | Life Sciences

Engineering team images tiny quasicrystals as they form

18.08.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Researchers printed graphene-like materials with inkjet

18.08.2017 | Materials Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>